KOGA Says! RENGO's Statement by General Secretary

KOGA says!
Statement on the Working Conditions Sub-committee Report: ‘Future labour contract legislation and working hours legislation’

27 December 2006
RENGO’s Statement by General Secretary Koga
  1. Today,(December 27), the Working Conditions Sub-committee of the Labour Policy Committee set up by Ministry of Health, labour and Welfare released its preliminary report on ‘Future labour contract legislation and working hours legislation.’ The report focuses on amendments to working hours legislation including the establishment of the labour contract law and introduction of a so-called Japanese version of the ‘white-collar exemption’ (‘a suitable system for a high level of freedom in working’).

  2. Proposed to the labour contract law include legislating: i) the principle that labour contracts must be based on equal negotiation position and responsibility for safety and health attention at work; ii) provision for establishment and changes to work contracts; iii) rules for loan of personal, job switch and disciplinary measures; iv) dismissal; and v) rules for limited-term work contracts. RENGO has, for many years, urged the adoption of a labour contract law as a special civil law in order to prevent and solve the increasing number of individual labour disputes. However, the report seems to have drawn a hasty conclusion regarding methods, which allow managers to make unilateral decisions regarding work contracts and changes based on a working rule. The proposed views of working rules make a different nature to the contract principle of civil law. Furthermore, ‘equal treatment’ and ‘workers who are under the financial subordinate’ clauses have not been included in the proposed legislation. In this age of diverse employment and working arrangements, these rules are totally inadequate.

  3. The proposed amendments to the working hours law focus on deregulation of working hours, including: i) raising the premium rate on overtime work; ii) introducing a so-called Japanese version of the ‘white-collar exemption,’ where in some cases premium overtime pay is not awarded; iii) deregulation of the labour system regarding discretional working style which workers could have own their duties and methods of job accomplishment vi) defining managers and supervisors more clearly. The biggest problems regarding working hours are the damage to mental health resulting from long work hours which can lead to karoshi (death due to excessive work), suicide due to work stress, as well as issues associated with imbalances between work and private life. Despite this, these proposed amendments will only encourage longer working hours and RENGO cannot allow them to go ahead. In order to curb long working hours, it is necessary to raise the overtime premium pay rate to 50% of base wages.

  4. Next, the Working Conditions Sub-committee will be deliberating on how to draft these proposals into legislation. RENGO is paying particular attention that the legislation regarding changes in working conditions of working rules is clearly defined and drafted in line with the principles of judicial precedent. RENGO, in solidarity with members of the Sub-committee from labour unions, will also be strengthening its efforts to bring into force work rules that benefit all working people.